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Kolkata gets a Messi kick

sports Updated: Aug 31, 2011 23:04 IST
HT Correspondent

With Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi's arrival for a friendly match, football frenzy has returned to Kolkata in a way reminiscent of the days just before legendary Pele played here in September 1977.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has advanced a cabinet meeting earlier scheduled at 6 pm on Friday, when the Argentine team will play Venezuela at Salt Lake stadium.

The chief minister is not a sports enthusiast, but Writers' Building sources attributed the change in the meeting time to a unified demand from her cabinet colleagues.

Clamour for tickets continued from dawn to dusk and beyond on Wednesday, as people had the Eid holiday to remain preoccupied with soccer throughout the day. What the players did and how they practised was the talk of the town.

"Kids and youngsters are flocking to Bidhan Market (in the central part of Kolkata) for the Messi jersey (Argentina jersey with number 10). I sold more than 500 Argentine jerseys on Tuesday night. People from clubs have placed bulk orders for these jerseys and I couldn't resist keeping my shop open even on Eid. I missed the celebrations," said Mohammad Raja, a shopkeeper.

The craze at the market also centred on the boot Messi wears on the field. Posters, banners and flags are selling fast.

The Salt Lake stadium has been renovated completely to welcome the two South American teams.

"The sports department has spent Rs 15 crore for the special day. The changing room, warm-up room, dope-testing room, VIP box, media box, conference room, police control room have all been restored and renovated. They look brand new," said Sumantra Choudhury, who is in-charge of the stadium.